WRITTEN ON November 23rd, 2009 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Appetizer, Dinner, Holiday, Side Dish, Soups

I write a lot on this blog about my maternal grandmother, Dot, and growing up in my hometown of Baltimore. What I’ve never mentioned is that my dad’s mother (in a bizarre twist also named Dot) is alive and kicking, 90 years young and still living on her own in her home of 40 years, in none other than the great state of New Jersey.

We used to make the trek up to see Dad’s family every Thanksgiving. He’s one of 6, so it was always considerably more chaotic than holidays in Baltimore. In fact, there were so many people descending upon Grandmom’s house for Thanksgiving each year that we’d do the drive there and back in the same day, because there was no room for the four of us to spend the night. Pretty much ensuring that Thanksgiving, for the better part of my childhood, well, sucked.

Don’t get me wrong. It was always fun to see my aunts and uncles and cousins. We never saw enough of them, so being able to all come together in the same place for the day was important. That said, my brother usually had a wrestling tournament of some sort the very next day (who does that?! 10 year olds having to make weight the day after Thanksgiving?), ensuring that he was extra grumpy and irritable. Which always made for an interesting car ride. Let’s just say the “this is your side, this is mine” thing was a lost cause in our backseat.

I guess I just always felt like I wanted that classic, Norman Rockwell, over the river and through the woods kind of Thanksgiving (so much for Freedom from Want). A holiday with line-free cranberry sauce and a turkey that was golden and succulent and thawed before it went into the oven. Uncles who didn’t get locked in the bathroom, and maybe some cousins who didn’t require baby-sitting.

In the interest of a more organized Thanksgiving, try this squash soup. It’s simple, tasty, and works really well as a first course (or, served in little demitasse cups, as an afternoon pre-meal snack). Plus, you can make it today, ensuring that you’ll be well prepared when the masses descend on Thursday.

We’re going to Syracuse this year for Thanksgiving, to be with the hubster’s siblings, nieces and nephew. And, strangely, the main reason I’m excited is that we’ll have more than three or four people at the table. I guess I realized after all these years that my raucous, noisy, debating, never-a-meal-served-on-time, over the Delaware River and through the Turnpike tolls Thanksgiving was better than I realized. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? The reason we’re all drawn to the Norman Rockwell standard is because most of us never had anything close to that…and never knew how great we had it, mayhem and all. Ahh, youth is wasted on the young. This year, embrace the chaos, my friends. That’s the good stuff. Oh, and save room for another slice of pie. It’s an eaters holiday, after all.

Squash the stress

Squash the stress

Butternut Squash Soup (Serves 4 as a first course)
1 2.5 lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise
1 Idaho potato, peeled and cut into 2 inch dice
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1.5 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp all spice
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400. Scoop seeds out of butternut squash, rinse them, and lie flat on a baking sheet. Set seeds aside to dry. Put squash, flesh side down, on a separate baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Roast in oven about 30 minutes until soft and cooked through. In the meantime, place potatoes in a heavy large saucepan, and cover by about 1 inch with cold water. Salt the water well: it should taste like sea water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Once at a simmer, add onions and bay leaf. Simmer potatoes, onions and bay leaf until squash is finished roasting. Remove squash from oven, scoop flesh into pot with potatoes and onions. Add chicken stock, a bit more salt, pepper, and all spice. Simmer about 10 minutes more. Spray squash seeds with a bit of non-stick cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toast in oven, as you would pumpkin seeds, about 5 minutes until dried out and crisp. Once soup has simmered 10 minutes, turn off heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Pour half and half into a small bowl. Stir a few spoonfuls of the hot soup into the half and half, to temper it. Once the half and half is warm, pour it into the pot of soup, stir to combine. Check for seasoning, serve garnished with toasted seeds.

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